Czechoslovakia: Ethnic Conflict, Constitutional Fissure, Negotiated Breakup

In This Review

Czechoslovakia: Ethnic Conflict, Constitutional Fissure, Negotiated Breakup

By Eric Stein
University of Michigan Press, 1997
386 pp. $57.50
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The title pretty well identifies the subject of this book, including the slash between "Czecho" and "Slovakia." An emeritus professor of law at the University of Michigan, Stein is Czech-born, but after being back in the country only twice in the 40 years after he left on the eve of World War II, he returned in January 1991 as a member of an ad hoc international commission assembled to help Havel's liberated Czechoslovakia write a new constitution. The task turned out to be quite different. With a detached but sympathetic eye, he tells the story of the inner struggles to work out arrangements for the new federation and then how it all crumbled in the wake of the 1992 elections. As Americans should know from their own history, constitution-writing is a very political process, and, as Stein ably illustrates, it affords an excellent vantage point from which to follow the making and breaking of states. His is a wistful reflection on the effects of nationalism, and not at all a technician's guide to constitutions.